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Gokokuji is a temple of beautiful flowers

Gokokuji is one of Tokyo’s best temples.  It has historical architecture.  In spring, beautiful flowers surround it.  A big Buddha sits in its courtyard, and a historic cemetery is behind it.  In spring, it becomes as pretty as a picture.  You need to camera a camera there.  Let’s explore it!

Gokokuji main hall

Well, Gokokuji has always been pretty, but May is special.  When the azaleas bloom, you’ll find them in various spots over the grounds.  There aren’t as many as Nezu Shrine, where they cover a whole hill.  Still, there are enough to make flower lovers happy!  And there are enough to make the grounds as pretty as a picture.

stairs going up to Furomon gate at Gokokuji temple

When you make your way past the main gate, look in front of you.  There is a long staircase, both sides flanked by azaleas.  It will be a kaleidoscope of colors.  You should be in seventh heaven if you love both flowers and temples.


But, it isn’t only about azaleas.  In early spring, there are cherry blossoms too.  And in early summer, hydrangeas.  Do you understand why this temple can be as pretty as a picture?  

Let’s move back to the temple.  Once up the stairs and inside the courtyard, you will see Kannon-do.  It is the main hall of Gokokuji. 

If you enjoy temple or architecture photography, this building is a gift.  Please remember there are other old halls on the ground, so take your time and walk around.  And if you can visit when the cherry blossoms are in season, you should get something special.

Gokokuji Nio-mon gate

Gokokuji is a member of a tiny elite group.  Earthquakes, fires, and war have ravaged Tokyo over the centuries.  But, Gokokuji is one of the few to have survived everything thrown at it!  So, it offers a rare look at early Edo Period structures.  History is deep here.

You can enter the main hall when it is open.  There are many treasures inside.  Unfortunately, photography is not allowed.  But, you might feel can smell the history.  No wonder the government designated it an “Important Cultural Property.” 

Gokokuji 2 story-pagoda

A brief history of Gokokuji

Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, the fifth shogun,  built the temple complex in 1681.  It was to honor his mother. 

Kannon-do, the main hall of the temple, was completed in 1697.

Why do photographers like Gokokuji?

It has:

  • A big Buddha!  Well, not huge, but big enough;
  • Flowers such as azaleas, hydrangeas, and cherry blossoms;
  • There are lots of jizo statues;
  • Mount Fuji!  Yes, a replica is there;
  • Several other worship halls;
  • A pagoda;
  • Cats in the …
  • Cemetery! 

Yes, being a temple, there is a cemetery.  And this one is rather special.  First, it has quite a few famous people.  Among them is English architect Josiah Conder, one of my favorite Tokyoites.  He designed many notable buildings in the city (including Kyu-Furukawa and Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens). 

Josiah Conder grave
The grave of Josiah Conder.

There are also the graves of Keizo Ogawa and his wife Sachiko, the founders of the Cozy Corner cake shop.  Walk around, and you’ll find them.  There aren’t quite as many as Aoyama or Zoshigaya, but there are more interesting people if you do some research.

Next is the grave architecture.  There are enormous monoliths, cleft rocks, lanterns of various sizes, and statues.  Some are simple, like Condor’s.  He only got a rock!  But I do like how it is hidden in the trees, though.  Nice and shady on those hot summer days.

And, along the paths, you’ll find gardeners.  They always seem to be pruning or shaping the trees and bushes.  I haven’t found another cemetery in Tokyo like it (not yet anyway).  That’s one reason why I like to call Gokokuji the garden temple.  

Gokokuji is a great place, especially as you won’t find many tourists there.  Most people who go there are worshippers or visitors to the cemetery.  It is rarely crowded.  It’s different from Sensoji or Meiji Shrine, where you need to fight your way through crowds at times.  You’ll be able to walk around at your own pace and take your time to explore.

Buddhist Statue at Gokokuji

Other photo spots near Gokokuji

Once you have finished your visit, you could also think about going to:

Where is Gokokuji?

The temple is near Gokokuji station (Yurakucho subway line).  Leave by the number 1 exit, and you’ll be at the entrance.  Here it is on a Google map:

Opening hours

The grounds are always open.

Are public toilets available?

Yes (near the Nio-Mon gate).

Admission costs

None.

Gokokuji large Buddha

Wrapping up

Gokokuji and its cemetery are beautiful and historical.  You can go wild with a camera there.  But, to capture their true beauty, go when the flowers bloom.  Then you’ll understand why I think it is as pretty as a picture. 

External sites with great pictures of Gokokuji:

External sites about the history of Gokokuji:

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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